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MEPs call for EU leaders to send Gaddafi ‘clear signal’
Ruth Marsden 
10 March 2011
(…) As European leaders gear up for a special summit on Libya, the European parliament has called for the EU to be ready to use its military strength if the situation in the war-torn country rapidly deteriorates.

Leading socialist MEP Richard Howitt warned on Thursday that EU member states must be prepared to change the current rules of engagement on whether military measures are required against colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime if there is evidence that violent attacks against his own people are increasing.

"Those who today warn of the political, legal and military barriers to any security intervention should understand how quickly the debate would change if our fears about massacres by Gaddafi against his own people become evident," said Howitt.

"A failure of preparedness now could presage the crimes against humanity of the future, whilst an EU statement of political will to act could be critical in preventing such violence from ever happening".

Howitt's comments come against the backdrop of a virtually unanimous decision by the European parliament on Wednesday, backing the enforcement of a no fly zone over Libyan territory aimed at preventing Gaddafi's regime from targeting the civilian population.

MEPs also called for the EU to establish relations with the rebel forces in Libya "to start the process to make them official".

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, who had been briefing MEPs on the situation in Libya, warned that the EU has to respond "very quickly" with "creativity and determination".

She told the parliament, "The EU has a clear aim, namely to be at the forefront of efforts globally, in close coordination with all international partners, such as the UN, US, Turkey, Russia, China, Australia and Arab countries to ensure a rapid reaction to events with no duplication of efforts."

Friday's special EU summit could see Europe move beyond its traditional humanitarian and economic development roles, suggested Howitt. (…)

"Europe must act in step with Nato, the United Nations, the African union and the Arab league, but not use disagreement in other fora as an excuse to avoid the difficult questions this summit must address," Howitt said.

Socialist group leader Martin Schulz said that the Libyan crisis could prove a "huge challenge" for Europe and warned that any wrong decisions could have dangerous long term consequences.

"Gaddafi is a criminal. He is a murderer who should be put in international court," said Schulz.

"This man will not escape his punishment."

Schulz's comments were backed by Portuguese S&D MEP Ana Gomes, who said, "In view of Gaddafi's savage retaliation against his people, the EU must exercise the responsibility to protect, by helping to enforce a no fly zone." (…)

(…) Parliament president Jerzy Buzek, who will address EU leaders at Friday's summit, emphasised that the events in north Africa are a "key test" for the EU. (…)

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